The Yogi Next to You


The Yogi Next to You - Claiborne MildeWhat’s your yoga story? How did you find Mala?

I stepped into my first yoga class in college, and it was a revelation, because I had never been a gym person or a runner, and as an uncoordinated child I had an uneasy relationship with sports. Here was something that felt good on so many levels and didn’t make me feel like a total klutz! Through the years, through life transitions and moves and especially pregnancies, I tried to keep yoga close, but it didn’t always happen. When my daughters were babies I barely got out the door some days–yet I needed yoga more than ever. I was getting acupuncture treatments for tension headaches, and Christina at Element recommended the recently opened Mala. From the first class I took there, something clicked. The teachers have such a thoughtful approach, and there’s a good level of challenge and a down-to-earth vibe; I happily settled in.

Then, two years ago, my practice shifted dramatically when I suffered a back injury while doing yoga on vacation. The scary thing was, I had no indication I was harming myself–I didn’t feel any pain until later. In the aftermath, even restorative poses hurt, and I became well acquainted with frustration during the months that followed. But never once did it occur to me to shelve my mat. I started from the beginning and slowly built up in a more conscientious way; there’s a lot to be said for being a beginner again. The teachers at Mala were (and are) incredibly supportive and worked with me to heal and regain my strength. I’m now more aware that just because I can get into a pose doesn’t mean I should, and just because something feels good in the moment doesn’t mean it will later–I have to listen to instinct and back off before I feel pain or resistance, and I’ll admit I’m not always successful in this. I’m still learning, always, where my limits are and how my body changes from day to day, year to year. The point is not to always achieve the full pose or to get the maximum wring-out, but to find a practice that’s sustainable.

What pose do you want to do all day? What pose could you never do again?

Bring on the arm balances and twists! I can do without Hanumanasana, though: the flying monkey legend behind this pose is beautiful, but trying to get into it is terrifying.

What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?

Everyday life, aches and pains. Even if I can’t get to class or can’t bring myself to unroll the mat at home, I at least try to do a half ankle-to-knee while I’m reading or in the car. Or, do a little sun salutation with my kids.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

Last month, Angela opened class with a talk that really handed me the tools to get through a difficult day. She framed it around a quote from Charlotte Beck:

“Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the Guru.”

After class, I headed home to catch up on my long to-do list but realized I was locked out. Instead of doing much-needed work, I was on the G train, fruitlessly chasing down keys and finally calling a locksmith to drill my door apart. The whole time I kept reminding myself of those mosquitoes, which helped me put the whole thing in perspective, enjoy the enforced time outdoors, and assure myself I could be more productive later on. And I’m telling you, I had greater patience for my daughters that evening and was a much better human for having heard that reminder at the beginning of the day.

Where is your favorite place to get coffee, or a drink post yoga?

Café Pedlar or Henry Public, respectively.

If you could practice yoga anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Somewhere with tropical birds singing instead of car alarms screaming.

How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?

I’m a nicer person to be around. I feel better. I try not to get so hung up on minutia and I’m not so afraid of getting older and creakier, because I know I’ll always have this practice with me to help me through the changes.

We’re thrilled to bring you the stories of Mala yogis in their own words.  Maybe you know them, maybe you’ve never seen them before, maybe they look familiar, maybe you once knew their name, but forgot.  Whatever the case may be, here is the chance to learn a little more about the person practicing on the mat next to you.  Click here to read about other yogis.


About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
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